Just before the summer break I had an interesting experience which sent me hurtling right back to the heady days of my UCAS application for Medicine.
A colleague and I were doing a talk at a local sixth-form, trying to pass on some tips and tricks for navigating the hyper-competitive application process for medicine entry – This is part of the University’s MEDREACH program, which aims to encourage Medicine applications from those who otherwise wouldn’t consider it through talks, Q&As and interview workshops.
After exploring the different aspects of a strong medicine application, with a brief discussion of UKCAT and BMAT tests thrown in for good measure, we opened the floor up to questions. The first few were standard – asking about entry requirements, foundation courses and the like – and didn’t pose much of a problem.
However, just as we thought we were safe, the topic of interviews was broached, and a girl in the front row came out with a killer question.
“Why did you want to be a doctor?”
Now, I have to admit there was a moment of silence as my colleague and I shared a glance. Did we even know why?
I stand by the idea that this is one of the hardest questions that can be asked of any potential medicine applicant. For any big life decision – and committing to an intense, stretching 5-year course is one of those – there will always be a huge variety of motivating factors, which are inevitably incredibly difficult to sum up in a smooth, succinct sentence.
Of course, the standard answer of “I like science and quite enjoy helping people” can be used, but that applies to pretty much everyone who walks through the door of an interview for a healthcare profession, and is flawed by its lack of personality. Another approach is to talk about a life-changing, medically related experience which inspired you to pursue a medical career – this is great if you’ve had such an experience, but what makes these answers distinct are their relatively unique nature, and thus won’t have been the motivating factor for most interviewees.
In reality, medical schools appreciate that there will be a multitude of reasons for your application. The question of “why medicine?” should be treated as an excellent opportunity to sell yourself to your interviewers, and thus your response needs to be a little more than a quick sound-bite. Really, the questions requires you to show an understanding of what it means to practice medicine, an appreciation of the challenges involved and, ultimately, the reasons why you personally would make a good medical practitioner.
That isn’t to say there’s a formula for answering this question – Indeed, every answer will be specific to the individual giving it – but it is of fundamental importance that applicants understand what the question is asking, and that they’re prepared to give a comprehensive answer.
Anywho, enough excitement for one post! I’m currently in LA, soaking up the sun and gawping at the portion sizes – Hope you’re all enjoying your summers!